Can you motivate others to change their mind?
When we are trying to change a person’s mind, our first impulse is often to explain why we believe what we believe, and why they should too. We also try to point out why their way of reasoning is wrong.
Yet studies show that this typically backfires and may indeed strengthen their beliefs. In addition, future attempts at influencing and reasoning are even more likely to make them rebut your alternative point of view. They may see you as a threat to their way of thinking.
Instead of trying to force other people to change, you are better off helping them find their own intrinsic motivation to change. You can use a technique called ‘motivational interviewing’ – where you ask open-ended questions and use mindfulness listening – and figuratively hold up a mirror so they can see their own thoughts more clearly. If they express a desire to change, you can help guide them by providing more evidence in favour of their new belief.
In controlled trials, ‘motivational interviewing’ has been shown to help people stop smoking, abusing drugs and alcohol, and gambling; to improve their diets and exercise; to overcome eating disorders; to reconsider prejudices; motivate students to get a good night’s sleep; and people to lose weight.
What is one part of your work that would benefit from you being able to change someone’s mind? What open-ended questions could you use to help them see their own, in your opinion, ‘misguided’ thoughts’? What evidence could you then, and only then, introduce to further convince them that changing their mind is the logical decision?
My tip: Practice first at home with a minor topic and build up your skills from there.